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The Making of A Cookbook Part #1

 

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The rumors are true. I am working on my 3rd book, thank G-d.

I have done many things in my life both personally and professionally. But writing a cookbook is one of the single most difficult of them all.


 

My Most Memorable Purim

 

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My most memorable Purim is a scary scene.  Me with about 60 quarts of soup and 24 pounds of challah dough, crying like a baby at 2AM.
Let me explain.

When we moved to Monsey 5 years ago I really wanted to make a splash that first Purim.  The community had been so warm and welcoming and I really wanted to show my appreciation, by making all 60 families (or most of them) mishloach manos.  Since I didn’t grow up in a family that made mishloach manos, or much of anything in the kitchen, when I first got married I frantically attempted to pull something together, at the last minute, only after my husband reminded me Purim was tomorrow.  So I borrowed a page from my friend Anita’s book and bought every purple food I could find left on the supermarket shelf through it all in a bag and attached a card wishing everyone a “Grape Purim.”  Boy was I ever proud of myself.  No really, I was proud.


 

Gefilte Fish Recipes

 

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At most events I do, inevitably a woman comes up to me with a story.

She speaks of inheriting her grandmother’s gefilte fish recipe or some other such occurrence that leads her to following the directions of an old time version with the first instruction being:


 

Sweet Designs

 

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I feel like Amy and I are friends. Yes, we both do share a really good friend, Judy, who turned me onto Amy in the first place. But when you read her stuff and get the warm and fuzzies from her beautiful creations I think you’ll also feel like you’re friends with Amy. Amy’s first book is now available for pre order (it’s at the top of every list B&N, Amazon etc…) and I can’t wait to get my copy.

Sweet Designs, just like her Sweet Site will inspire you to no end. She’s actually a Sweets Stylist (to the stars) — is that the coolest thing ever? Now the question is how does she stay so skinny? While the book is not kosher per se, from following Amy I know there are so many recipes that are inherently kosher (Amy does keep a kosher home) and recipes that are easily adaptable so we can go ahead and recreate these in our kitchens. The book, her site, the picts will all make you smile.


 

Do You Ever Feel Stressed?

 

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Just feel like writing now. I know it’s been a while. Have actually been kinda stressed. There is a reason superwoman and her superman are imaginary characters – it’s all just not possible. I am stressed to the point that I am now (as I am typing) eating an entire box of mini cream-filled sponge cakes. It’s a Weight Watchers box but I am pretty sure their intention was not to eat the entire box at once, probably why they individually wrapped each one. SO frustrating now that I am trying to eat them all (while typing). I can stop at any time, you know (just as soon as I finish this box).

I should get the mother of the year award for the yummy din din I made last night (considering all the stress)- the Cranberry Walnut Salmon over Wilted Spinach from my second book Quick & Kosher Meals in Minutes*. Um.. the kiddies including my two year old who can’t even speak “asked” for seconds! Yay! Getting your kiddies to love salmon really should get me some kinda trophy don’t you think? I have two small pieces of salmon left in the fridge which I really should eat instead of struggling with this Fort Knox faux twinkie plastic wrap. But when I am stressed all I can think of is cream and cake. You do know that STRESSED is DESSERTS spelled backwards?!


 

Brisket

 

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I have a little love affair with brisket. It’s been so good to me over the years. Save for one terrible, terrible (I mean tears kinda terrible) incident which to this day I can’t quite figure out exactly what went wrong (I’ll write about all the sordid details in my new book). That one bad episode aside (hey, even Seinfeld can have a bad episode or two and still be one of the greatest sitcoms to have ever graced the airwaves), brisket is most probably my best friend, my meat soul-mate, if you will. It’s so forgiving, it’s so tender (when sliced against the grain ), it’s so easy to work with (try searing it on the stove top first. No time? Then just throw it in the oven or even the slow cooker. Also try it shredded on a sandwich.) and lends itself to any and every possible preparation under the great big bright sun (sweet or savory, Asian or Argentinian inspired, with coffee or beer or wine and more).

So how did it become classic Jewish food? If I had to venture a guess (since I am too busy (read lazy) to look this up right now it’s most probably because it can be prepped ahead and lends itself perfectly to reheating (in fact is better when prepped ahead and reheated) which all coincide nicely with the prohibitions associated with cooking and rewarming foods on Shabbos and prepping in advance for a ton of company for 2 and 3-day holidays. If you are a bulk cooker and freezer, brisket is your friend too! Here go a few of my live-by-these-for-perfect-brisket rules.


 

Jewish Comfort Food – Chicken Soup

 

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My grandparents, both sets, made the best chicken soup. Same like yours, I imagine. My father’s side of the family made a deep dark richly flavored broth with spaghetti noodles. My mother’s parents a light bright broth with square luckshen (noodles) and alphabets for us kids in the later years.

Yes, it’s Jewish penicilin.


 

You’ve Been Asked to Cook Meals for a New Mom

 

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Kimpeturin. When I first heard that Yiddish word, I was totally confused. First of all, it sounds like a plural, but it actually refers to a woman (in the singular) recovering from childbirth. And it’s a term just loaded with compassionate implications: you take pains not to stress out this woman; she’s not expected to shlepp the laundry; and you cut her some slack when it comes to emotional triggers. Point being that new mommies can use a little (ok, a lot) of help from their friends, neighbors, in-laws, anybody! Doesn’t matter if the new baby is your first or if you have a house full of kids, getting it all together ain’t easy.

In our wonderful Jewish communities, aid comes in all forms – gifts of baby essentials, babysitting so the new mommy can nap, or help with din-din. I’ve also heard of a lady who comes over just to sort the laundry. What a G-dsend!


 

Hot Chocolate and Apple Cider for Winter Time

 

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It’s cold out. Well kinda cold out. Not exactly bone chilling yet here in NY but I’ve got my coat on and that little chill that comes with a whisper of winter. This all means it’s time to warm the tummy, yours and your kiddies’ with special hot drinks. There are few things that say “I love you”, “I made this special for you” and give people that warm and fuzzy feeling –  a cup of homemade hot cocoa does just that. In this case it’s triple chocolate hot cocoa so that must mean you really, really, really love the beneficiary of this treat (ehm, yourself). A hot spiced apple cider is a slightly more sophisticated way to say “you mean something to me” unless of course your special somebody (ehm, Hubby) would prefer that hot cocoa. I love you all so here from my heart to yours some special warm winter recipes to fill your mugs.

 


 

Jamie’s Chanukah Sizzle Reel

 

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I wanted to share what we in the “industry” call a sizzle reel. Translation - a 2 minute clip of the pilot we shot for PBS. We actually shot this before Rosh Hashanah. My neighbors got a kick out of all the menorahs in the window in the middle of September and my kiddies loved opening their presents early. I was obviously uber-pregnant (could barely reach the counter) and collapsed at the end of the 14 hour shoot (feet throbbing, head aching, back burning kinda collapse). We are editing together the full half hour episode now, I am so excited.

The food star of this episode, my Caprese latke tower – cover of this month’s JoK mag and my new favorite way to dress up a latke. Tell me what you think? Of the latke and the sizzle. Don’t you just LOVE this song from the Moshav Band? I cried like a baby the first time I heard it and not just because I was an emotional pregnant mess. Every time Hubby plays it my oldest goes “oh is Mommy going to cry again?”


 

Greek Salad with Feta, Garlic Croutons and Lemon...

 

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Creamy, tangy feta, salty olives, crisp lettuce, and crunchy croutons, all wrapped up in a light and spicy lemon oregano dressing… ah, the Greek Salad! Could be a meal, could also be a side – perfect for a Chanukah feast (we do have to remember the Greeks this time of year).

Greek salad is one of my faves on Chanukah and post-baby. I have a friend who gorges on Godiva after she has a baby – it’s her “Thank you, G-d, and I deserve a treat” snack. Mine is Greek Salad. When my friend Anita comes to visit and asks what she can bring, I always say – “Can you pick up a Greek Salad on the way?” So random, but hey, it’s true. This super-easy salad is perfect for your Chanukah party because you want something you can toss together quickly when you have a ton of latkes to fry.


 

Lemon and White Wine Broiled Sole

 

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There’s food and then there’s food. This is one of those simple, light dishes – yet it’s supremely robust and flavorful. Dover sole is one of life’s culinary delicacies and can cost you more than a steak at most restaurants. It’s white, firm, mild-flavored and best paired with a lemon wine sauce. It’s so easy to eat – just one of those things that goes down easy. It’s a super thin piece of fish, too: you don’t even need teeth to enjoy it (but don’t waste it on the baby!)

At the fish counter, you’re most likely to find lemon sole or gray sole much more affordable, and it’s still delicious especially when you are cooking for a crowd this Chanukah. This recipe for Lemon and White Wine Broiled Sole is a nice complement to all the oily fried treats at your Chanukah party.


 

Pumpkin Baked Penne

 

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I have six cans of pumpkin puree sitting in my kitchen cabinet. And I must admit that seeing them lined up there gives me piece of mind, relieving the paranoia that sets in every fall. That’s when the store shelves are filled with pureed pumpkin for a brief period and everybody who loves pumpkin comes out in droves, clearing every last can till they’re impossible to find afterward. Bloggers hit the net, talk show hosts fill the air waves and twitter goes nuts with everyone trying to find out where to get their hands on a can of pumpkin puree.

So I confess to having an obsession. I nearly buy out the entire store when pumpkin is plentiful on the shelf, as though preparing for some dire emergency. I mean, what if the world comes to an end, and I’m stuck with no pumpkin puree in my kitchen? How will we survive?


 

Caramel Pear Lattice Pie

 

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Ain’t nothing like an all-American Apple Pie.

But you’ll have to go to your Yankee Auntie to get that recipe. Not that I’m un-American or against apple pie. It’s just that I grew up surrounded by Eastern European intonations and Old Country cooking. (When my father speaks, Hubby just smiles and nods, pretending to understand.)


 

Spiced Chicken with Lentil Soup

 

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Slightly spicy, with a hint of sweetness from cinnamon and sweet potatoes, this Spiced Chicken and Lentil Soup is a hearty meal in one – especially when you add garlic toast. I learned the trick of rubbing cloves of garlic on hot toast from, Giada. Must be how they do it in Italy.

Back home in Philly, I used to watch my grandfather from Transylvania eat whole garlic cloves, with a glass of milk to wash it down. Grandpa lived to 96, in addition to the grace of G-d we credit garlic. The next generation in our family tempered the garlic tradition by substituting fresh sliced garlic on toast, drizzling it with olive oil and salt (or butter instead of olive oil). I remember my dad buttering his bread with a layer so thick it held the garlic like glue.